John Humphrys says reaction to his leaked conversation making light of gender pay gap was ‘preposterous’

Radio 4’s former Today presenter also said he has ‘never been ashamed’ of six-figure salary

Leaked audio of John Humphrys and Jon Sopel discussing Carrie Gracie's gender pay dispute

John Humphrys has called the backlash to him making light of the BBC’s gender pay gap “preposterous”.

Radio 4’s former Today presenter, who recently left the programme after 32 years, was at the centre of a scandal in 2018 when an off-air conversation between him and BBC North America editor Jon Sopel was leaked, in which the pair appeared to make jokes about the corporation’s gender pay gap.

While Humphrys expressed regret and took ”full responsibility” for his conversation with Sopel, he told BBC News: “I do find the reaction to be preposterous.”

He explained: “I naively believed that the people you work with are not sitting there listening furtively to your conversations that you think are little private chats at four o’clock in the morning, when you’re both taking the mickey out of each other.”

Humphrys added that he “has a vague suspicion” of who leaked the recording, but refused to say who.

In the interview, Humphrys – who supports the BBC’s decision to publish its top salaries list – also revealed he has “never been ashamed” of his six-figure salary.

“I’ve always been puzzled by the BBC’s hitherto refusal to [publish the salaries of its top stars]. I’ve never been ashamed of how much I earned. There was a time when I was earning a very large amount indeed.”

In the year 2016-2017, Humphrys earned between £600,000-£650,000 before he took a pay cut to around £290,000.

Humphrys admitted in the interview that before he eventually left the Today programme in September, he had threatened to resign on numerous occasions.

“I’m afraid, rather childishly, I have threatened to resign once or twice – quite a few times probably,” he said.

It has previously been reported that one such occasion was when Humphrys found out he wouldn’t be presenting on the morning of the EU referendum result.

As it turned out, he did host that programme with Sarah Montague.

Humphrys memoirs, A Day Like Today, are published on Thursday 3 October.

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